Philip McShane (February 18, 1932–July 1, 2020) was an Irish mathematician, philosopher, economist, and theologian. He earned an M.Sc. in relativity theory and quantum mechanics with First Honors from University College, Dublin (1952–56), where he also lectured in mathematics. Later he did his D.Phil. at Oxford (1965–68), where he wrote a dissertation on “The Concrete Logic of Discovery of Statistical Science, with Special Reference to Problems of Evolution Theory.” His dissertation was published as Randomness, Statistics and Emergence (1970, 2nd edition 2021).
Once describing himself as “a dabbler, a mathematician gone astray, rambling in the worlds of economics and literature, music and physics,” McShane was a prolific scholar and theoretician. He crossed disciplinary boundaries in essays and books focusing on topics ranging from the foundations of mathematics, probability theory, and evolutionary process, to the philosophy of education and omnidisciplinary methodology. He also published introductory texts focusing on critical thinking, linguistics, and economics.
In the area of methodology, he wrote The Shaping of the Foundations (1976), Lack in the Beingstalk (2006), and Futurology Express (2013); in the area of theology The Road to Religious Reality (2012), The Everlasting Joy of Being Human (2013), and The Allure of the Compelling Genius of History (2015); and in the area of economics Pastkeynes Pastmodern Economics: A Fresh Pragmatism (2000), Piketty’s Plight and the Global Future (2014), and Economics for Everyone: Das Jus Kapital (2017, 3rd edition). Among his introductory works are Wealth of Self and Wealth of Nations (1975), A Brief History of Tongue (1998), and Music That Is Soundless (2005, 2nd edition).
McShane also edited Bernard Lonergan’s For a New Political Economy (1998) and Phenomenology and Logic (2001), and together with Pierrot Lambert he co-authored Bernard Lonergan: His Life and Leading Ideas (2013, 2nd printing). He is considered by many the leading interpreter of Lonergan’s Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, a compendious work that lays out both a genetic method for studying organic development and canons for methodological hermeneutics.
Twice nominated for the Templeton Prize for his extensive work in methodology, economics, and philosophy of science, McShane ran workshops and delivered keynote addresses in Canada, Australia, England, the U.S., Korea, India, Australia, Mexico, Columbia, and Ireland. On various occasions and in various countries—including Mexico, Korea, Australia, Canada, and the U.S.—he presented the key issues underlying the vital transition from the muddles of Marxist, neo-Marxist, Keynesian, and neo-Keynesian analyses to a democratic economics.
For over sixty years, McShane fermented forward towards a solution to the steady decay of global culture and its abuse of Gaia. In the last years of his life, he wrote with increasing clarity about the negative Anthropocene age in which we live and a future positive Anthropocene age of luminous collaboration. In Economics for Everyone he indicated pivotal steps towards seeding the positive Anthropocene age when the “cultural overhead” of leisure will be understood, taught, and implemented, and thus human life will be more livable for an ever increasing number.
When McShane died in July of 2020, colleagues and former students around the globe paid tribute to him, describing him as an “African elder,” a person who “gave counsel to think long-term, in terms of centuries rather than years or even decades,” and “someone I could always be myself around, even when I was angsty, anxious, or depressed … a friend, mentor, professor, and family member all at once.” One person described “being amazed, when I asked him some questions, at his generosity—he tore out a chapter of something he was working on and gave it to me there and then.”
M.Sc., Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics. University College, Dublin, 1952-56.
Lic. Phil., St. Stanislaus College, Tullamore, Ireland, 1956-59.
S.T.L., Heythrop College, Oxfordshire, England, 1960-64.
D.Phil., Campion Hall, Oxford University, 1965-68.
Lecturer in Mathematics: University College Dublin, 1959-60.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy: Milltown Institute of Philosophy and Theology, 1968-73.
Associate Professor of Philosophy (1974-79) and Professor of Philosophy (1980-1994), Mt. St. Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
First Visiting Fellow in Religious Studies, Lonergan College, Concordia University, Montreal 1979-80.